Harvey ‘so happy to start last’ after last-gasp Indy 500 qualifying lap

Indycar Racing News

Jack Harvey managed to make it into the 2023 Indianapolis 500 with the lap of a lifetime – as he admits, it's a story even Hollywood would struggle to come up with

Jack Harvey Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan 2023 Indianapolis

Harvey made it into the 2023 Indy 500 – just


Sometimes, under the greatest pressure, your mind can go to the strangest places.

For Jack Harvey last Sunday, going faster and faster, peaking at over 240mph on the formidable Indianapolis Motor Speedway, running the lap that could both save his career but also knock his team-mate – and his boss’s son – out of this weekend’s Indy 500, his mind was for a period on one thing: Lincoln City Football Club.

One last nail-biting run in the closing seconds qualifying saw Harvey pull off a dramatic and unlikely lap that landed him the final place on the Indy 500 grid by just 0.007mph. While eyes were glued to TVs around the world, Harvey’s thoughts had turned to the owners of his hometown football club — who would be flying out to this weekend’s race for nothing if he was bumped from the starting line-up.

“I can’t explain what happened,” Harvey told Motor Sport about what followed. “And you couldn’t write it – I’ve never been so happy to start last!”

3 Jack Harvey Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan 2023 Indianapolis

‘Last Chance Qualifying’ turned into a showdown between Harvey and his team-mate Graham Rahal – with the latter’s father and team boss Bobby stood between them


As the Lincoln lad emphasises, even Brad Pitt’s upcoming F1 film would struggle to live up to the story at the centre of the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan team’s storm this week.

Harvey, along with his Rahal team-mates Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard, found himself in the ‘Last Chance Qualifying’ round, reserved for the bottom four qualifiers out of the 34 entrants fighting it out to be part of a 33-car field. One-off Rahal team-mate Katherine Legge just squeezed into 30th.

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With Dale Coyne Racing’s Sting Ray Robb the only other car in Indy’s abbreviated ‘Bump Day’, the Rahal team had to face up to the fact that it was likely one of its drivers would knock out the other.

“Right before the session, Graham and I were saying to each other, I don’t know which one of us is going to be [knocked out] but it’s going to be me or him,” says Harvey. “We kind of spoke it into existence, but that was the reality.

Bobby [Rahal, team owner and 500 champion], and his people have been coming and doing this for over 30 years, and have never been through this level of drama.”

As the last chance session commenced, Rahal’s worst fears were confirmed. Harvey was slowest, with Graham just ahead.

The clock ticking down, Harvey went on an installation lap out to cool his engine – usually key to going faster – before doing what he thought would be his last qualifying effort.

2 Jack Harvey Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan 2023 Indianapolis

Harvey describes going into a meditative state on his successful qualifying run – post Lincoln City thoughts


With Indy qualifying set on an average speed over four laps, cars usually get slower over the four tours. On Harvey’s second effort, though still just slower than Graham, his third lap was essentially the same speed as his second.

With just seconds left in the session, Harvey’s No30 crew knew if he could do the same again, but just the tiniest bit faster, he could get into the race – and knock out his team-mate.

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While spooling up for his sensational final qualifying lap, all things related to Harvey’s Indy adventure began to spin through his mind.

“The major shareholder of Lincoln City is the Jabara family, and they’re actually my guests this week at the 500,” says Harvey.

“It’s crazy, because this is where your mind goes, right? I’m like ‘S***! I’ve got guests next week, who I’m literally going to be sitting with for the race, after I invited them to come watch me in it!

“We just got our 500 themed helmet today too. Same thing: ‘Oh my God, I’ve got a brand-new helmet, never gonna wear it!’ It’s funny.”

From here though, Harvey began to enter the racing twilight zone as he started going faster and faster on a third and final desperate attempt to get into the Indy 500.

Despite having a hot car from having recently been on track – usually conducive to going slower – Harvey and his team somehow found the speed to actually go faster as the final run progressed, against all received IndyCar knowledge.

Harvey would clock a 229.166mph to Graham’s 229.159mph, making it into the 2023 Indy 500 by 0.007mph.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment where I’ve been more focused and present on just driving,” he says. “I was just so in the zone.


“I didn’t know how much time was left, I didn’t know how fast I was going.

“I actually didn’t even realise that lap three was quicker than lap two until I got out of the car and someone told me.

“I can’t explain where the speed came from, or why lap three was better than lap two – that was what really made the difference.”

Harvey says he’s never had a bittersweet moment like it, the elation of getting into the Indy 500 combined with the “terrible” feeling of knocking out team-mate Graham, along with all his mechanics, engineers and other team staff.

4 Jack Harvey Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan 2023 Indianapolis

Harvey attempts to process the emotion while being congratulated


Things would only get stranger from there though. Rahal team-mate Legge would collide with hapless Cusick Motorsports driver Stefan Wilson in the following practice session, injuring the fellow Brit and putting him out of the 500.

The man chosen to replace him? Graham Rahal. He’s in the race after all.

“I don’t think you could have written this script, even if you were trying to be as far-fetched and as dramatic as you could get,” says Harvey. “Just about every step of the way, there’s been a twist and a turn. May [at Indianapolis] is like that.”